CIRCLEVILLE — Harrison Township in Pickaway County was told in a ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court that the township cannot prohibit permits for gravel mining permits, however, it can restrict operations due to health concerns and rules.

The Ohio Supreme Court made the ruling on Wednesday, March 11, in an unanimous decision. The decision reversed a Fourth District Court of Appeals decision which affirmed the Harrison Township Board of Zoning Appeals.

The board of zoning appeals originally denied the permit for mining sand and gravel. The mining involves 179 acres of property near U.S. Route 23. The township’s board of appeals had backed with Berger Health Systems which opposed to a proposed mining project by Columbus Bituminous Concrete Corp. (CBCC) to allow Shelly Materials to mine the area.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, writing for the court, stated that Harrison Township has the ability to regulate mining, according to Ohio State law. Restriction and regulations can only occur when matters of public health come into play.

A separate law, O’Connor writes, can allow townships to grant conditional use permits with conditions mining operations must meet. However, townships cannot deny mining permits for failing to meet general standards in a zoning resolution, according to Court News Ohio.

The Supreme Court sent back the case to the board which will allow the proposed mining only to apply general standards involving public health.

Any concerns regarding public health and safety must be addressed through conditions detailed in an approved application.

The case has been going through the court system since February of 2017. Pickaway County Assistant Prosecutor Jayme Fountain has been involved in the case since then. She plans on reviewing the ruling with Harrison Township in a public hearing.

However, due to COVID-19 (coronavirus) concerns, scheduling for a public meeting is up in the air. Fountain stated that after Governor Mike DeWine’s orders of social distancing are completed, then she will be able to meet with the Township.

As of Tuesday, March 17, Fountain has yet to speak with the township regarding the case’s ruling.

CBCC applied for a conditional use permit in order to activate sand and gravel mining. Three public hearings took place with “numerous” witnesses letting their voices be heard, according to Court News Ohio. After the selection of public hearings, the township’s board opted to deny the permit.

CBCC then appealed the decision to the Pickaway County Common Pleas Court. In a trial court setting, the decision to reject the permit confirmed the board’s denial of the permit, citing RC 519.141(A). The code stated that the board may require a conditional use permit to go along with general standards which applies to all conditional uses in the township.

The trial court detailed that Harrison Township had approved six general standards with CBCC failing to meet three of them. Standards related to operations that create excessive traffic, noise, fumes, glare or odors. The township cited that these are not appropriate for the general character of the area.

CBCC appealed the trial court decision to the Fourth District Court of Appeals. The Fourth Court reaffirmed the trial court’s ruling, which CBCC appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court agreeing to hear the case.

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